Feminine Homes
From: Harry Pasternak (Harry_Pasternaktvo.org)
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 1995 10:06:08 -0500
The form of housing that we homo sapiens live in, is extremely recent,
considering the millions of years we mammals have been on this planet. Here
is a brief history of the evolution of the home in the western world:

* Before 1300, the nobility lived in castles etc., the rest were serfs- who
lived in very primitive dirt floor one room shacks.

* Around 1300, a group of serfs banded together, and built the walled-in town
of Amsterdam (apparently the first). The homes were two stories high and
built row house style; that is, shared two common walls. These homes lined
both sides of the 10 foot wide streets. 
Each home was primarily a place to carry on business- converted into a place
to sleep at night. During the day both floors were used for business-so that
the public street spaces continued right into both floors of the home-there
were no private or semi-private spaces. 
A night the bed was a bundle made of clothes worn during the day. There was
no furniture. 
This was the birth of the middle class in the western world. Other towns then
sprung up replicating the Amsterdam model. It is interesting that in 1300,
all homes in these towns were home-based businesses- seems like history may
repeat itself.

* The next phase had specific attributes. The first floor remained a public
space- a place to carry on business; but the second floor now becomes a
semi-private space-the general public doesnt use the second floor.
The second floor is one large room. During the day there are tables and
benches, used for food preparation and dining, that come apart to be stored
at night- when the stored beds are assembled for night use. Again everyone is
sleeping in one large room- no privacy.  

* The next phase, again, originates in Amsterdam-which has become a major
cheese production centre. The cheese is made right in the homes on the first
floor. The cheese makers (the women) quickly realize the importance of
cleanliness in the production of consistent high quality cheese. Although
their personal hygiene is non-existent at this time, the cheese making women
keep the first floor unscrupulously clean-as well they begin to paint the
walls. The first floor no longer is a public space, it becomes a semi-private
area. The stoop then becomes an intermediate place-between the semi-private
interior and the public space outside the home, where the shoes are cleaned
before entering the home- the birth of the porch in the western world ?!

* Around the 1600s,  is a major phase of change- the home has become the
domain of the woman-they take total charge of what hapens in the home: 
- Private spaces begin to appear, with walled in rooms on both floors.
- Chairs make their first appearances (just used by nobility before-not to
sit in comfort, but to denote status).
- Other furnishing, drapes etc. come into the homes making them cozy, warm,
- Homes are built away from the business section of town and the exterior
design also becomes cozy, warm, comfortable looking. Again the women are in
charge. France seems to be the country leading this phase. The appearance of
the homes are unlike any other kind of building.

* The evolution of the home continues with the feminine attributes. Things
change drastically in Canada and the USA after the second world war. Suburbia
happens. Most of the feminine features that produced that cozy, warm,
comfortable feeling are stripped away from both inside and outside of the
houses that are built for the middle-class. The profit motive takes over.

Harry Pasternak
Thousand Islands Institute

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